Presidents: Don't cry for them, America
By Jessica Zigmond
Now we have another reason to hail the chief: aside from holding the most powerful office in the land, he also lives beyond the average life expectancy of the average U.S. male.
We've all seen pictures of U.S. presidents at the beginning and end of the terms, noting how four years in office undoubtedly hastens their aging. So that's why the results of a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (registration required) (PDF) were surprising.
According to the findings, not only is there no evidence to support the notion that U.S. presidents die sooner on average than other U.S. men, but 23 of the 34 presidents who died of natural causes actually lived beyond the average life expectancy of men of the same age when they were inaugurated. That's even if they hypothetically aged at twice the normal rate while in office. (Aging twice as fast in office means that for every day in office, two days were subtracted from the estimated lifespan at inauguration.) For one thing, the study says, the average age of a president at inauguration is 55.1 years, so each president had already survived what the study referred to as the “most perilous” years of a president's life. And for another, all but 10 presidents were college-educated, wealthy and had access to the best medical care in their era.
“The graying of hair and wrinkling of skin seen in presidents while in office are normal elements of human aging; they occur for all men during this phase of life and can be accelerated by behavioral risk factors such as smoking and stress,” the study noted. “Whether these outward changes occur faster for presidents relative to other men of the same age is unknown. Even if these signs of aging did appear at a faster rate for presidents, this study shows that this does not mean their lives are shortened.”
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